Bulls' quick start is enough to hold off Suns, 100-92 20-point lead withstands repeated Phoenix runs

June 10, 1993|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

PHOENIX -- The defending champion Chicago Bulls too advantage of the Phoenix Suns' initial stage fright to gain an early 20-point lead, but then had to fight off repeated Suns rallies to win the opening game of the NBA Finals, 100-92, at the America West Arena last night.

A Charles Barkley jump shot pulled the Suns to within 88-85, with more than four minutes remaining.

But the Bulls retained their poise. Michael Jordan, who scored 17 of his game-high 31 points in the last quarter, joined Scottie Pippen (27 points) in stretching the lead to 93-86, and B. J. Armstrong finished the Suns off with a clutch three-point shot.

Barkley led the Suns with 21 points and 11 rebounds.

While the Bulls were bidding to become the first team to win three straight titles since the Boston Celtics dynasty of the '60s, the Suns were seeking their first championship in their 25-year history.

The only current Phoenix player who had previously participated in the NBA Finals was reserve guard Danny Ainge, who played in six championship series and owns a pair of rings from his days with the Celtics and lost in last year's showdown with Chicago as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers.

Discussing the experience factor, Bulls coach Phil Jackson said, "This is really the Suns' first year together with guys like Barkley, Danny Ainge and Richard Dumas. That's a lot of new parts, and they had to find their way through the playoffs under duress.

"We saw some cracks in the armor in their first series against the Lakers. But they survived the challenge, and that's a tribute to a team that's relatively new as far as playing together."

The Bulls tipped off their defensive scheme in the opening minutes, doubling Barkley every time he touched the ball. The first time produced a steal and basket by Pippen, but Barkley found Mark West open underneath on the Suns' next possession.

Two more turnovers by the Suns produced a pair of baskets by Horace Grant and an early 12-6 Chicago bulge. The Bulls converted six of their first seven field-goal attempts.

Phoenix appeared to lose its poise trying to combat the Bulls' multi-traps. Almost every trip down the floor, one of the Suns had difficulty handling the ball.

Pippen was having his way against Dumas. But Dumas countered with a pair of spin moves. A fast-break layup by Grant off a nifty Jordan assist boosted Chicago's advantage to 30-20. After one quarter, Chicago was firmly in command, 34-20.

Surprisingly, it was Grant who led the balanced Bulls offense with 11 points.

Chicago shot a torrid 64 percent (16-for-25) from the field and did not commit a turnover.

Both teams struggled offensively at the start of the second quarter. The Bulls rested Pippen and Armstrong and stretched their lead to 38-22 on a back-door layup by Scott Williams.

The Suns were settling for perimeter shots by Ainge and Dan Majerle with little success. Rookie head coach Paul Westphal kept changing his lineup, but nothing worked as the synchronized Bulls got repeated layups to lead 44-24 with six minutes left in the first half.

The Suns finally put together a pair of baskets, and Jackson quickly put Jordan and Armstrong back on the court. A slam dunk by Oliver Miller trimmed the deficit to 46-32.

Suddenly, the Suns showed renewed confidence. After Chicago got called for consecutive zone violationd, Dumas beat Pippen on the baseline and Miller followed with another slam to close to 48-37.

Pippen ended this streak with a 15-foot jumper, but hoops by Dumas and Johnson made it 50-41. Jordan, who had become a spectator on offense, hit an acrobatic layup to finish the first-half scoring with the Bulls' lead trimmed to 52-41.

The most surprising aspect of the first half was the minimal contributions by Jordan and Barkley. Jordan attempted only nine shots and made five, and Barkley, getting special attention, was 4-for-13 from the field.

Pippen led all scorers with 14 points, but his counterpart, Dumas, topped the Suns with 12.

The smaller Suns were holding their own on the boards. Chicago had a slight 22-20 rebounding edge, led by Williams, with eight.

Barkley scored the first four points of the second half, slicing the margin to 52-45 and drawing a roar of approval from the capacity crowd.

The fans were quickly silenced as Armstrong answered with a jumper and three-point shot for 57-45. But Majerle came right back with a bank shot and a fast-break layup off a Barkley assist.

Things got even stickier when Dumas, looking like anything but a rookie, made two more baskets to pull the Suns to within four at 57-53. But in less than a minute, the Bulls had upped the advantage to 63-53.

While Jordan continued to struggle offensively, the Suns kept pecking away at the lead. A three-pointer by Majerle and Miller's free throw made it 68-62. Bill Cartwright made a foul shot, and Jordan then sneaked in to rebound a missed free throw.

Once more, the Suns fought back with hoops by Frank Johnson and Majerle. John Paxson then drew a technical after fouling Kevin Johnson, but Ainge failed to convert.

The Suns retained possession, and Dumas swished a jumper. Miller made one of two free throws, and the Suns were within a field goal. But Paxson's touch pass found Pippen free underneath, and the Bulls were clinging to a 73-69 lead after three quarters.

The Suns' new arena was rocking as the Gorilla mascot performed before the start of the fourth quarter.

NBA FINALS

BULLS VS. SUNS

(Best of seven)

Last night Bulls 100, Suns 92

Tomorrow at Phoenix 9 p.m.

Sunday at Chicago 7 p.m.

Wednesday at Chicago 9 p.m.

June 18* at Chicago 9 p.m.

June 20* at Phoenix 7 p.m.

June 23* at Phoenix 9 p.m.

* If necessary

TV: Chs. 2, 4

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